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Posted on 23 February 2012 at 17:17 GMT

Equality and Human Rights workers strike

Cameron and Co know you have rights, but they don't want you to be able to use them! The Equality and Human Rights Commission advises people on issues such as equal pay, or discrimination over maternity, disability, or race. One way or another, this is a majority of the population.

Yet the Commission (EHRC) is having nearly two-thirds of its funding cut (63%). Almost three-quarters of staff (72%) face redundancy, with the possibility that management may resort to compulsory redundancies.

The EHRC helpline is how to contact them for advice. The government wants to privatise it! With the phone line sold off to whoever, hundreds of staff laid off, offices closed and EHRC's grants programme for anti-discrimination advisory bodies closed down... how will it function as anything beyond a token presence?

But staff at the EHRC are members of the PCS union and fighting back. This is the second wave of cuts they're suffering and they are mounting a second wave of industrial action.

Talks with management since the first wave of cuts and strikes last year "have proved fruitless", says PCS.

This morning offices in Manchester, London, Birmingham, Cardiff and Glasgow all mounted picket lines in a half-day strike.

PCS members were joined by Unite members and others against these devastating cuts, which PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka says "would wind the clock back 40 years to a time before some forms of discrimination were outlawed."

In London, pickets also lobbied the EHRC "commissioners" board. PCS says the Commission's chair Trevor Phillips and the other commissioners are going further than the government's cuts, proposing a new structure even before ministers publish their plans for the EHRC, and appear to want to strip the agency of almost all of its public service functions.

Further action is likely to be necessary to defend this service. Rolling strike action is a strong possibility.

If people don't know their rights, or have support in enforcing them, then as Mark Serwotka says: "equality legislation will not be worth the paper it is written on."

Hugh Caffrey, North West Socialist Party

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